Heineken’s Greek operating company continues to get the book thrown at it. First came a record €26.7 million fine by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) after a 12-year-long investigation into its anti-competitive market abuse. That investigation then prompted the Greek public prosecutor to bring criminal charges in 2016, culminating in last week’s guilty verdict against two former executive directors of Athenian Brewery S.A. (AB) for orchestrating the scheme. Each received a fine of €80,000 from the Athens Criminal Court of First Instance.
The court found that both executives had broken the Greek law on free competition (Article 44 of Law 3959/2011) by authorizing exclusivity agreements and other exclusionary policies, thus distorting all areas of the market in an abuse of AB’s dominant position in Greece. The court found that Macedonian Thrace Brewery (which also filed its own $100 million lawsuit) and Olympic Brewery S.A. were the competitors most affected by these practices.
The criminal charges were brought by the Greek public prosecutor in 2016 after the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) ruled that for nearly two decades AB had systematically abused its dominant Greek market position in violation of Greek and EU competition law. The HCC’s 12-year-long investigation led to a record €26.7 million fine, upheld by the Athens Administrative Appeals Court which endorsed a massive body of evidence that AB had implemented a single and continuous targeted policy to exclude competitors from wholesalers, hotels, bars, restaurants and retail outlets.
In a damning 700-page judgment, published in December 2015, the HCC further stated that AB had “employed various commercial practices aimed at exclusivity, including significant payments conditional upon exclusivity and/or the foreclosure of competitive brands, loyalty and target rebates” and “engaged in restrictive practices at the wholesale level, by providing wholesalers with significant economic motives that promote exclusivity and by exercising pressure on them not to trade or introduce competing products.”
AB sells Heineken, Amstel, Alfa Bios5, Fischer and Mamos, among other brands, in Greece.